Lectures and seminars Cognitive Neuroscience Club with Dr Nobuhiro Hagura: "Decision Uncertainty as a Context for Motor Memory"

05-12-2023 11:00 am Add to iCal
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The Cognitive Neuroscience Club is hosting monthly seminars on the topic Cognitive Neuroscience. On Tuesday 5 December 2023, we welcome Dr Nobuhiro Hagura from the Centre for Information and Neural Networks in Osaka, Japan.

"Decision Uncertainty as a Context for Motor Memory"


Dr Nobuhiro Hagura from the Centre for Information and Neural Networks in Osaka, Japan


In a penalty shoot-out of a football (soccer) game, one may decide to kick the ball to the right corner confidently, seeing that the goalkeeper is moving to the other side, or decide to make the same kick while being unsure about the goalkeeper’s movement. Because both actions are apparently identical, we tend to believe that the same motor memory (i.e., a motor program for kicking the ball to the right) is retrieved and executed for both cases regardless of the quality of the preceding decision. But is this true?

Previous perceptual decision-making studies have treated uncertainty as a factor for modulating the evidence accumulation process for decisions, implicitly assuming that an identical motor program is triggered once the evidence level reaches a bound. However, learning or performing an action differently based on decision uncertainty seems sensible because subjective uncertainty can be correlated with important behavioral factors, such as the expected outcome of an action or the possibility of revising a motor plan.

Here, in a series of behavioural experiments, we show that actions that follow certain and uncertain decisions are encoded and memorized differently. In other words, we demonstrated that decision uncertainty works as a contextual cue for motor memory. This finding contrasts sharply with the dominant view in the field, which postulates that contextual cues for motor memories consist of factors that are directly relevant for motor execution, such as the visual appearance of an object to act on that implies different control dynamics, type or location of reach targets, and posture/state of other body parts during action. We demonstrate that covert internal decision processes, without involving any other bodily movements, could also be a contextual cue for motor memory. Encoding motor memories based on such decision contexts may maintain the robustness of control under variable neural activities elicited by different cognitive states, showing the tight coupling between cognition and action.


Heather Iriye Postdoctoral Researcher